Where Nepal Stands Today


Madhavji Shrestha

Nepal, as the oldest nation of South Asia was the bed-rock of the independence and sovereignty, particularly during the dark days of the western imperialism and their global pre-dominance. The independence and sovereign entity of Nepal was in fact the beacon to all that were ruled and controlled by the imperialistic powers. The present political entity of Nepal owes its existential credit to the valour and sacrifice, sagacity of the political and military leaderships, and sweat and blood of its patriotic fighters of those days, especially from the period of the latter second half of the 18th century to the early first half of the 20th century. Approximately the period of about 175 years was the formative period of the nationhood of Nepal that gave the current shape of the country and guided its journey as an independent nation.

The current political leaderships of Nepal need to draw an enduring lesson that they could become leaders simply because Nepal exists as an independent political entity that has been founded and nurtured by its creators and defenders. Had not there been a unified Nepal, how can these politicians play the role of the political leaders. Unquestionably, the nation comes first, and only then come others like democracy, political parties etc.

Democracy does not mean everything for the country and its society. It also does mean looking forward to the future of the country while paying rapt attention to the glorious past. Let us pay a bit of attention to the wise remark of Edmund Burke, who pointed out, “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors”. This comment of Burke indicates that the present time is the fundamental moment that connects the future with the past. The wise and conscious people take note of the present situation with an eye to the future while considering historic past.

Similarly, Thailand, a Southeast Asian neighbour, provides good example and teaches us a valuable lesson. Like Nepal, Thailand also could exist as an independent nation during the predominant days of the western imperialism. Although flanked by the British Empire and the French colonialist power in its neighbourhood during the dark colonial days, Thailand remained a sovereign entity due to the diplomatic dexterity and adroitness of its political leadership.

 It is noteworthy to mention that how the historic efforts made by the then Thai ambassador in Washington, Seni Pramoj lending his support to the Pro-Allied Free Thai Movement succeeded in throwing out the then Axis and Japan supported Thai government of Songkhram  during the hey days of the Japanese dominance in Thailand in the Second World War. The patriotic and sharp-witted diplomacy of the Thai political leadership could win the day. Mr. Arne Kislenko, an expert on the Thai foreign policy has branded Thai diplomacy as “Bamboo Diplomacy’ as its roots are firmly strong and effectively durable. Thai people take great pride in the success of diplomacy, because that saved the independence and sovereignty of their nation. We find a similarity of the independent national existence of Nepal in South Asia and Thailand in Southeast Asia during the crucially challenging times in their history   

Today, the global situation is indeed febrile. No nation even the super power is in a position to lead and guide the turbulent global situation to the stable peace and harmonious relationships among nations. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US provided an appreciable leadership in the world from early 1990s to the mid-years of the first decade of the 21st century. But in the succeeding years, the United States could not provide the global leadership. No other powerful nation or group of nations could come forward to lead and guide for peace and development.

Experts say that the erstwhile Soviet Union met its demise because of the slackening of the communist ideology and the non-rewarding functioning of centrally controlled and directed economy. Also, the high expenditures incurred by the then Soviet Union for defense productions alone cost the living standard of the Soviet people very dearly, and the result was the high degree of disenchantment and disillusion with the ways of life under the communist authoritarian rule. True, the collapse of the Soviet Union heralded the end of the Cold War. If that is the one reason of the end of the Cold War, another reason frequently   attributed is the similar characteristics of the Western civilisations and cultures including the American and Eastern European, which paved the way for the sudden demise of the Cold War. Identical nature of their civilisation forewent their seemingly great differences in their political domain.

Today, the global situation is divided by the forces of divergent and contradictory civilisations and cultures as variedly represented by the West, the Chinese and the Arab. Each is calling for space and clout for its own shade and sound. Highly multi-coloured and multi-shaped ways of life and thinking wave- length make the global stability a highly divisive and incongruous, not amenable to the mutually tolerable relations among myriad communities and social groupings, which, in turn, create queasy ambience and non-accommodating attitude and behavior on the part of various nations, and that has contributed and is now contributing to making the situation uncompromising and turbulent.

If the global situation is worrying, the regional scenario is gasping with the fear psychosis. Very recently, the abrupt outbreak of the border dispute between India and China involving the tri-juction at Doklam of the disputed Chinese - Bhutan border has brought the Nepali psyche to the point of alert and alarm. Some people with knowledge on the border trouble raise the question as to how the situation, if it goes worsening, will impact Nepal. The question is natural to come up. Naturally, both sides at the dispute would certainly try to make some sort of diplomatic initiative to convince the Nepali side with their own logics and arguments, as Nepal is the immediate neighbour of both India and China. Of course, nothing has come out in public on this question as of yet. Under the prevailing situation, Nepal as a neighbour of both big giants must stick to the point of the strict political and security neutrality, which must be pursued to its hilt as had been done about five and  half decades ago when the big conflict had happened in the fall of 1962.

Nepal needs to understand and analyse as to why this controversy has happened under the current situational circumstances of the Indo-Chinese relations.

A query crops up in the minds of Nepali watchers whether the dispute has erupted in view of the growing Indo-US relations at the present juncture as also in view of the steadily increasing military relationship developing between India, Japan and the United States recently. While the dispute is going on, Prime Minister Modi of India and President Xi Jinping of China, though, met at the sidelines of G20 Summit held very recently in Hamburg of Germany. Although nothing came out in public about the meeting, this indicates no flaring-up of the dispute at the moment.

This event will, for sure, put the tiny Bhutan under the greater influence of India in the years ahead. Reportedly, it is said that Bhutan has made some efforts to come out of the Indian clout even after some change effected in Article 7 of the Indo-Bhutanese Treaty concluded in August 1949 to enable Bhutan to conduct its own foreign policy with some options.

Diplomatic reports from New Delhi and Beijing might help to better understand the situation leading to the current dispute and its immediate concerns.

It is now understandable that the global situation is highly complex and intricately networked, which makes one wonder as to how to make out Nepal’s foreign policy clear and credible. Given the current knowledge and skills of our top diplomats who go on handing over their foreign portfolio to another top diplomat every nine to ten months would be hardly well equipped and experienced to make the stand of Nepal well-known to the friendly countries, if not to the global community. However, try they must, if Nepal is to behave as a responsible member of the Comity of Nations.

Nepal as a weak and economically dependent and volatile country must learn and practice to walk diplomatic trajectory with fine-tuned approach and skills in our dealings with our two big neighbours, and with very influential and big powers as well. Rare diplomatic dexterity is very hard to come by, the absence of which might damage our standing as a credible nation-state.

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